Saturday, December 06, 2014

Pulse by Jeremy Robinson

Pulse (Chess Team Adventure, #1)Pulse by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book I've read by Robinson, and I can say I like his style. In Secondworld, he had neo-Nazis who have a sinister plan to destroy the world except for 'their kind'. In Pulse, he deals with an amoral billionaire whose plan is to live forever, and make money on the medical technology by selling it to the highest bidder. Throw in some Greek mythology and it's golden. Pulse is a good combination of high octane action and monster thriller.

I had no idea what to expect, and I honestly liked the tension as the story unfolded. It was a pleasant surprise at how things culminate, although this book has a seriously high body count and plenty of violent deaths.

I rooted for liked the Chess team, including its leader, 'King', Jack Sigler. Each member has something different to add to the team. I did wish there was more character development, but with the rapid pace of this novel, that would be pretty challenging. What I did get of the characters I did like. I especially liked Bishop, a team member with a tragic past and a serious anger problem, but deep at the heart, a true hero.

The villains were a bit underdeveloped for my tastes. I would have liked more viewpoint of Ridley and Reinhart. Ridley just came off as a very evil, self-absorbed guy with too much money. I think it would have been nice to see a flashback that revealed why he was so afraid of dying and was going to such extremes not to die. Reinhart just seemed like the bully type who started off abusing nerds on the playgrounds and who graduates to more heinous acts of bullying and villany. It would be interesting to see a flashback of the event that got him booted from the SEALs as well.

Overall, this was very good. The greek mythology foundation was fun and I loved where the author took it (minus the gory descriptions of the creatures rampages--could have done without that). I couldn't give it more than four stars just because I wish the author gave me more depth in the characters. But I tell you, this was a book that I didn't want to put down. It took me a while to read it because I'm really busy this month, not because of boredom. I'm looking forward to getting the Chess Team member ebook novellas and the other full length books in this series.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Matthew Reilly and James Rollins books.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Year One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul by Devin Grayson, Paul Gulacy (Illustrator), Jimmy Palmiotti (Illustrator), Laurie Kronenberg (Illustrator)

Year One: Batman/Ra's al GhulYear One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul by Devin Grayson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think the connection to Ra's al Ghul was a bit tenuous. Oh, yeah, he was the mastermind of the troubles that Batman and Gotham faces in this book, but it wasn't about Ra's al Ghul. Bottom line: Don't read this as an origin story about Ra's al Ghul. You'll be disappointed. I admit I kinda was. Overall, this was interesting. More or less Batman versus the zombies. If you go into it to read about Batman kicking butt, you'll probably be okay.

Nothing too exciting, but not bad.

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Batman and Son by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert (Illustrator), John Van Fleet (Illustrator), Jesse Delperdang (Illustrator)

I'm just lately diving deeply into the Batman comics, although I read them a long time ago, and I am a big fan of him as an iconic figure. To my surprise, I found out late last year that he had an actual son. Luckily, my library has a few of these books about Batman and his son, and this is one of them. When Damian shows up, he's a fait accompli, and Batman has to deal with the pathology the boy has due to be raised to be an emotionless killer who believes he's destined to rule the world by Talia in the League of Assassins, and as the grandson of R'as al Ghul. The boy is already a killer and his moral compass is seriously skewed. Batman takes the boy under his wing, knowing that he's a loose cannon. Damian has a twisted daddy complex, and feels the need to prove himself to his father. He sees the current Robin, Tim Drake as competition, and deals with him brutally, as he also treats a somewhat harmless masked villain. It all adds up to one serious complication for Batman. But he knows he has a duty to his son. Overall, I did like this, but I didn't like the prose story stuck in the middle of the graphic novel. To be honest, I stopped reading it. The gleeful brutality of the Joker grotesquely described by Grant Morrison's prose writing was stomach-churning. I had a sensitivity when it comes to that kind of subject matter, so I knew it was time to throw in the towel as the Joker begins his murderous rampage through Arkham. I really like the character of Harley Quinn (as she is portrayed in the Suicide Squad). While I know she's no innocent, it seems as though Joker brings out the very worse in her. Their relationship is the very definition of a toxic romantic relationship. I'm glad she later kicks him to the curve. So the prose story brought down my rating a lot. Also, I felt the ending was too abrupt and a bit confusing. I think that one should try to figure out the chronology of the Damian Wayne story and have the next books handy after they read this.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, Book 2) by Joseph Delaney, Christopher Evan Welch (Narrator)

Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, Book 2)Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I started this series years ago, and I was impressed that this is genuinely scary horror fiction for younger readers. Finally, I was able to pick this series up with the second book. I actually own this in Kindle and Paperback, but I wanted a scary book to listen to on audio for Halloween. Needless to say, I didn't finish it until November.

So I guess I should talk about my thoughts on the book. Frankly, I didn't like this as much as Book One. I guess I liked the evil witch villain more than I liked the Bane (and the weak humans he manipulated and used to do his evil).

The storyline touches in uncomfortable ways how the church may have done more harm than good in the fight against evil. Witches are being persecuted and burned (and many aren't even witches) in the name of God. Yeah, that can definitely lead to trouble when you use God as an excuse to hurt others or to manipulate things to your advantage over others. That doesn't speak to God's character at all, but many who don't know God can sometimes believe in the evil acts of people more than they believe in who God really is. The truth is that God is represented through a believer's actions than anything else.

The book shows that sometimes the worse evil is human evil. That's not to say that there is not an obvious supernatural component to this book. But frankly, if the Bane was not able to find humans to use and manipulate, he probably wouldn't have done as much harm in this book as he did.

One thing I can say about Delaney is that he taps into the complexity of human nature. Alice is a young woman who is on the edge. She tiptoes into the dark in the name of doing what is right, and young Thomas feels sympathy and loyalty for her that conflicts with his loyalty to his master, the Spook, John Gregory. Even though he knows and fears the worst about Alice, he can't abandon her without trying to help her. Ultimately, it turns out that his instincts are right in many ways, and he has to stand by them even when things look most dire.

I really liked the backstory on Thomas' parents. That was very, very cool. Another look at the complexity of good and evil in this context of this story. But Delaney also stresses that it involves the choices that we make. If you're going to be a good person, you have to choose to do what is right, and if you take the step in the other direction, it's because of choices you make. Even in the contest of Christian belief, while we believe in salvation through faith, a person still has to choose to believe and to live a life that reflects that belief with the help of God's spirit living in them.

The Bane was a scary bad guy, and the story has some genuine chills and thrills. However, I didn't find it as magnetic as the first book. I think the Bane was too one-dimensional as a villain. Having said that, I still enjoy this series and I'm eager to see what the next book has to offer this reader.

I definitely wouldn't recommend this to any readers younger than a mature twelve. It's scary and it shows some really dark aspects of human nature. As far as parental oversight, reading this book would have some very important discussion points about what faith really represents and how the church has a responsibility to the community and others. This book does not show the church in a positive light at all.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Fables, Volume 11: War and Pieces by by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Steve Leialoha (Illustrator), Niko Henrichon (Illustrator), Andrew Pepoy (Illustrator)

Fables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces (Fables, #11)Fables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have mad love for this series. I tried to stay away, take a long break, but it pulled me back. I'm a fairy tale addict and Willingham gets fairy tales and how to take them and give them a modern update without destroying the essence of what makes fairy tales so appealing.

I like that while Bigby and Snow are much loved and favored characters in this series, they take a back seat and we see the heroism and the complexity of other Fables. I love how the backstories of the characters come into play through their actions in this book. It's a happy surprise to see which ones come to the forefront as heroes. Boy Blue is a standout character, and that's a very nice development in the story. Cinderella, though not even close to being my favorite fairy tale, is rocking the spy thing. I like it very much. Even Prince Charming shows that he does have some hero down deep.

Fundamentally, this book is about war and its cost. The author handles this subject with the integrity it deserves, and shows that fairy tales are fundamentally moral and allegorical tales that teach the reader something about humanity. So Fables as a series stays very true to the heart of fairy tales, and I love that about this series.

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Catwoman, Vol. 1: The GameCatwoman, Vol. 1: The Game by Judd Winick
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm working my way through my library's graphic novel collection and availing myself of the New 52 titles. I would be remiss if I didn't check out Catwoman. I did start reading an earlier run (single issues) with Ed Brubaker several moons ago (still have a stack I never got around to reading). I thought, why not try this?

Catwoman isn't always my favorite. On one level, I like that she's morally ambiguous, sometimes on the good side, sometimes on the bad side. I like strong women who can fight and hold their own, but her selfishness and how it leads to others being hurt is hard to handle. I couldn't stand her in the last Nolan Batman movie. I didn't like her with Bruce/Bats, but I did like them together in this book. I can see why some ship Batwoman and Catwoman so avidly. I think they understand each other, even though they are on the opposite side of the line more than not.

I didn't like the artwork. Catwoman looks harsh and rather scary. Her features don't have the catlike beauty or appeal that I would associate with her. The colors were too washed out for my tastes as well.

I like Judd Winick's writing. I didn't find that much fault with the storytelling in this one. He shows Catwoman as a morally conflicted person who has made poor choices out of a damaged psyche. I can get that about her.

Overall, this was pretty good. The biggest issue for me was the artwork. Otherwise, I'll keep reading this title. Batman showing up drove my rating up a lot (I can't even lie). My library also has Brubaker's run, so I may grab those to read next year (which is only two months away now).

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Batman: The Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder, Judd Winick, Justin Gray, David Finch, Peter J. Tomasi, Pat Gleason, Tony S. Daniel, Scott Lobdell , Duane Swierczynski, J.H. Williams III, Jimmy Palmiotti

Batman: The Night of the OwlsBatman: The Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This graphic novel gives you your money's worth and then some. It takes the Court of the Owls/Talon storyline to the razor edge. You see how profound the war of the Owls is on those who oppose their agenda for Gotham.

Batman and his family of crimefighters and their associates all find themselves in mortal danger and taking on these formidable and superhuman warriors that serve the the Court of Owls, the Talons. I liked how the story crosses generations in the telling. I finished reading all the All Star Westerns my library has and I was pining for more, but I got a bit of that when the story goes back to Jonah Hex and his comrades dealing with the Talon. Also, we get to see how Dick Grayson's family became intertwined in the history of the Talon.

There are some excellent cameos by Red Hood, Arsenal (Red Arrow), Starfire, Batwoman, Young Robin (Damien Wayne), Nightwing, Catwoman, and many others. We even see how Alfred's own father ran afoul of the Court of Owls.

To me, this is a really excellent graphic novel collection. The artwork is beautiful and the storytelling is compelling. Batman is the king of awesome, but he's against a force that makes him the dark horse in this race (not something you see that often). This took me a while to read, but it's one that you want to spend a lot of time with, because the content is truly good stuff.

Definitely recommend this to fans of Batman and his associates!

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Superman, Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? by George Pérez, Jesús Merino (Illustrations)

Superman, Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow?Superman, Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? by George Pérez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one is barely three stars from me. I didn't like the storyline and I thought it was confusing the way it was written. The explanation of what was going on barely made sense. Also, Superman and Clark Kent just don't have any standout character. The tendency is to see Supes as a boring Boy Scout. I admit I did feel a bit like that about him, compared to Batman, who I totally adore (faults and all). However, when Superman's character is explored with the depth and the insight that he deserves, you can see why he is such an enduring icon of comic books and superherodom. This book doesn't add to the story of Superman for me at all. His inner life is not delved into, and one merely sees him going from calamity to calamity and not what his instincts, head and heart tell him about those experiences. What drives him to do what he does, as apposed to lip service to "Truth, Justice, and The American Way." The artwork is okay. It's not profound, but neither is it poorly drawn and inked.

I'm not a huge fan of Lois Lane, and I certainly didn't like her in this either. At this point, if I wasn't shipping Batman and Wonder Woman so hard, I'd totally want Superman to get with Wonder Woman based on this book.

I feel like I am bashing this pretty hard. I think it's disappointment. I had finally worked myself up to reading a Superman title and to find myself wanting more is a crushing experience. Will I keep trying? I think so, but right now, I'm not a big fan of the New 52 Superman run thus far.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Justice League: Cry for Justice by James Robinson, Sterling Gates, Len Wein, Mark Waid, Mauro Cascioli (Illustrator), Scott Clark (Illustrator), Federico Dallocchio (Illustrator), Mark Bagley (Illustrator) , Don Kramer (Illustrator), Ardian Syaf (Illustrator), Scott McDaniel (Illustrator)

Justice League: Cry for JusticeJustice League: Cry for Justice by James Robinson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was nearly a four star read for me on the strength of the story with Roy Harper and the Justice League and the truly despicable villain Prometheus. He is not only a formidable supervillain but he is also maliciously psychopathic but in a very methodical way. The Justice League underestimated him to their detriment, and he wreaks serious havoc as a result. I read Justice League: Rise and Fall first, so I'm glad I ended up finding this and getting some background on the events in "Rise and Fall." I'm really surprised that Prometheus doesn't get more buzz in the comic book world. He's like a dark Batman and he's super, duper evil. Yet I hadn't even heard of the guy until I read about him on DC Wikia a few months ago.

The reason why I couldn't give this four stars right out is because some parts are a bit hokey and confusing. I didn't like how each person who experiences personal loss due to Prometheus ( and some that are having some misgivings about how non-lethal the Justice League's approach to villains is) issue a 'cry for justice', well it just seemed a bit cheesy to me. Also, Congorilla? What a strange superhero. I was thinking, are you for real? Your mileage may vary.

I have a huge crush on Green Arrow (definitely top five favorite comic book characters), and he's in this a lot, so yay. He shows a lot of loyalty to his friend and co-Leaguer Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), based on their very strong friendship. In the end, he also becomes even more pivotal to this story because of what happens with Prometheus and Roy Harper (his sidekick Red Arrow aka Arsenal aka Speedy).

I also admit to having some confusion about some aspects of the story. I went to my trusty DC Wikia to get some clarification, and that definitely helps.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the artwork. I felt the characters were excellently rendered, and the colors were beautiful. Graphic Novels are inherently visual, and that is such a crucial component that I definitely grade hard on the art. The art in this one stands up very well overall.

Ultimately, this is one of those books that ends up with a half star review, due to the positives and negatives. 3.5/5.0 stars is my rating for "Cry for Justice."

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls by Geoff Johns, Ben Raab, Justiniano (Illustrator), Chris Ivy (Illustrator), Tom Grummett (Illustrator), Lary Stucker (Illustrator)

Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls by Geoff Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will confess that I have gotten into watching Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network, and I really like the character of Beast Boy. I decided to give these graphic novels a spin and this is the first one I grabbed.

My Observations:

Beast Boy on the cartoon is a lot more wacky than in the book. He looks more childish as well and is of diminutive height. In the books, he's movie star handsome. While not tragic, you can see that he has suffered a lot. Part of Beast Boy's story is one of loss--his birth parents initially and later his adopted family, the Doom Patrol. Ultimately he triumphs over his circumstances and tragedy and manages to maintain sense of good humor and a joy of life. That's infectious.

I wasn't that drawn into the storyline, honestly. It was more mildly interesting than unputdownable. I enjoyed seeing the Teen Titans dynamic on paper, and there is a bit of a crossover with some of the characters of the Young Justice tv show. I've done some research into Teen Titans on the DC Wikia and apparently the teams did sort of blend together throughout the history of the groups. It made me want for the 2nd Season of Young Justice to make it to Netflix (hint, hint). Anyway, I went off on a tangent.

Overall, this is pretty good. More of a cool adjunct to my tv explorations of Teen Titans.

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Swamp Thing, Vol. 3: Rotworld: The Green Kingdom by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Jeff Lemire, Yanick Paquette (Illustrations)

This book was a very intense close to an arc in this series. Man, the imagery is really disturbing. This storyline really gets under my skin in the aspect of decay being a force of evil. One of the good things is I got to see Animal Man with a different artist. I really didn't like the art in the New 52 Animal Man volume I read. The storyline is inherently disturbing, so creepy, squiggly artwork made it worse for me. With this, that barrier wasn't there. There is a hanging thread with the Animal Man story, but I don't know if I will keep reading those. We'll see. As far as this book. It was really epic. It features a very dark future that's enough to give one nightmares, especially if zombies and animated, rotten dead things makes one feel icky. Definitely yes for me. I really liked that they delve into the starcrossed love affair between Alec/Swamp Thing and Abigail, who has a secret legacy to the Rot. Things have a real bittersweet feel, but it's also satisfying. I was having a lot of wincey feelings when I read this, but it's a four star read, because it's well-written and the artwork is both nightmarish and grotesque but very artistic at the same time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Reverie by Nick Spencer (writer)

Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: ReverieSecret Avengers, Vol. 1: Reverie by Nick Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Words to describe this: interesting, confusing, complicated, obsfuscating. That's a good start. I agree that readers who have come to the Avengers from the movie might like this. It also has some gems for long-term readers, characters that you won't know who they are unless you have followed the comic book storylines. I think the biggest strength of this novel is that you get to visit with characters you may have become fond of in the movie and who might not have gotten as much screentime. The downside is the story is pretty confusing. I will pick up the next volume and see if I feel like I have a clue about what's going on better in that one.

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Resurrection Man, Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life by Dan Abnett , Andy Lanning, Jackson Guice (Illustrations)

Resurrection Man, Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and LifeResurrection Man, Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life by Dan Abnett
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This volume piggy backs onto the second Suicide Squad volume Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising, which is kind of cool. I can see Mitch's side of things in this book, and the more I read about his powers, the more they intrigue me.

Mitch's origin is very strange and not quite what I thought. I'm glad that he is not like he used to be, because he used to be a real tool, and that's putting it lightly. There is tons of action in this book, and I could see it as a pretty cool tv show or movie adaptation, although they'd have to turn down the violence a tad.

The ending is one what gives you a 'huh' moment and makes you wonder what's going to happen next. And I see there's only two volumes. That's too bad!

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in Blood by Daniel Way, Steve Dillon (Artist)

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in BloodWolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in Blood by Daniel Way
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm delving deep into Wolverine's origin stories and finding some dark places in his past. Wolverine has done plenty of his share of dirty deeds, and he has his share of regret. He wants to make things right. He created a killer for the US government, and realized that it wasn't too different from the forces that shaped him.

It was really dark seeing what Wolverine did in this part of his past, and the repercussions. I think that this tragic and dark past is part and parcel of what makes him the unique hero that he is, so I find that reading this saddens me, but it also makes me understand why the Wolverine of the present is so determined to fight for justice in his own way.

Not for the faint of the heart, but integral to the story of Wolverine. Some pretty cool cameos by others in the Marvel Universe.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Justice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns

Justice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most DangerousJustice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was pretty good, once I got beyond the misconception that JL and JLA was the same. That Amanda Waller is a master schemer and manipulator. I feel that Steve Trevor is in a tough spot. I don't think he's completely against the Justice League (he still has feelings for Diana), but Waller is playing on his concern for Diana and his jealousy over her being involved with Superman, and the fact that Steve isn't a super and therefore couldn't work out with Diana in the long run.

The team that they put together is interesting. I hope my library continues to carry this so I can see where the story goes next. I actually liked Catwoman in this book, so I am convinced to try her New 52 series.

I was a bit confused on some aspects. It's hard with these action and character-packed stories to keep up with everyone. But overall, I felt the story was cohesive, and I liked how it continued the arc from Justice League, Vol. 4: The Grid and showed the JLA side (and dealt with some of my confusion over JL versus JLA).

I wasn't too excited about the first JL titles I read, but I am starting to like these graphic novels more and more.

I'd recommend this title.

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The Hawk and the Lamb (Harlequin Presents,  #1616)The Hawk and the Lamb by Susan Napier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked how the whole set up builds suspense, but it's in a lighter, humorous way. I'm a sucker for that spy vibe, so I enjoyed it. Elizabeth is clearly way out of her depth as a spy, but she's clearly good enough to keep the hero guessing. I agree with one of my friends that the description of the hero in a tight swimming briefs didn't sound that appealing to me, and he sounds kind of skeevy with the earring and the abundant chest hair. However, I felt the chemistry was well done, and it was nice touch the the heroine feared being too passionate because of her first and last lover making her feel bad that her libido was much stronger than his (he was older). I felt the way that Elizabeth wigged out near the near was kind of weird and melodramatic. It was tension the story really didn't need.

Not my favorite by this wonderful author, but still a four star read.

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